Von Willebrand Disease Treatment for Dogs

The best treatment for dogs with Von Willebrand disease is to give the affected dog a blood transfusion. This is more of a condition than a disease and is more prevalent in dogs than cats. Von Willebrand disease is a genetic condition that is present at birth in a dog but is only recognized when a dog suffers an injury and his blood fails to clot.

Von Willebrand Disease

Von Willebrand disease is an inherited blood disorder and is caused by a deficiency in a protein called the Von Willebrand factor. This protein helps the platelets in the dog’s blood to form a collagen when the dog suffers from an injury to his blood vessels. This collagen leads to the formation of blood clots.

Dogs with this condition can bleed spontaneously and profusely from the nose, mouth and the urinary tract. They also have excessive bleeding from an injury to a blood vessel. Some pets with this condition may also have hypothyroidism.

Von Willebrand Disease is classified into 3 types:

  • Type 1 Von Willebrand disease is the most common form and occurs when proteins are present in lowered concentrations. Dogs suffering from this type experience excessive bleeding in medical processes such as dental procedures, castration and spaying. They also have spontaneous bleeding from the mouth, nose and urinary tract. Doberman pinschers, Airedales and Shetland sheepdogs are breeds most affected by this condition.
  • Smaller proteins or multimers are present in Type 2 Von Willebrand disease when there is an absence of larger multimers. Although this condition is quite rare, it can cause severe bleeding and usually affects German shorthaired pointers.
  • The most severe form of this condition is Type 3 Von Willebrand disease where there is an absence of multimers. This disease is fairly common in Scottish terriers.

Symptoms of Von Willebrand Disease in Dogs

  • Nose bleeds
  • Bleeding from the gums
  • Arthritis due to bleeding in the joints
  • Black stools due to bleeding in the stomach and intestine
  • Blood in the urine 
  • Prolonged bleeding from trauma or surgical procedures such as neutering or spaying

Treatment for Von Willebrand Disease in a Dog

Blood or blood products should be administered to a dog that is bleeding or is expected to bleed during a surgical procedure. Von Willebrand factor should be administered and this is richly available in a blood product called cryoprecipitate. Cryoprecipitate can control bleeding for 4 hours after it’s administered. If this isn’t available then complete plasma should be administered to the affected dog.

Alternatively, the vet may administer Desmopressin acetate which is a hormone that helps release Von Willebrand factor in the dog’s bloodstream and shortens bleeding time for 2 hours after being injected. If the affected dog is also hypothyroid, thyroid hormone replacement therapy helps to control bleeding.


There is no cure for this condition and it can only be prevented or managed. You should minimize the chance of injury and examine your pet regularly for any signs of injury. If your dog requires a surgical procedure, he should be given the Von Willebrand factor. Blood plasma or cryoprecipitate should also be kept near at hand in case they are required.

Dogs with this condition shouldn’t be allowed to breed. Most dogs affected by Von Willebrand disease can live normal lives and even if they do show clinical signs of the condition, they can be managed with medical intervention.